Producing educational films that activate the emotions known to support learning

2018-11-20T04:21:15Z (GMT) by Stephen Hall

Vocational educators often use a variety of online educational films to engage learners in an attempt to reduce boredom - a precursor to student attrition (Cuseo, 2012). While there are numerous educational films available on sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, production values vary greatly. Importantly for educators and filmmakers, new questions need to be asked about educational films: do they activate those emotions known or believed to support learning? Do filmmakers understand whether using cinematic techniques to activate the emotions of enjoyment, anger, frustration, boredom or relaxation actually support a subject or course’s learning outcomes?

These questions led me on a journey where I was introduced to the field of Academic Emotions (Pekrun, Goetz, Titz & Perry, 2002). I came to understand the immediate importance of academic emotions to the craft of filmmaking and their power to either engage or disengage adult learners. Few filmmakers and educators know about the field of academic emotions and how it can be leveraged to produce educational films that emotionally support learning. To help educational filmmakers—like myself—assess what academic emotions educational productions activate in adult learners, I created a self-report wheel called the Wheel of Academic Emotions (WAE). The WAE draws upon the emotional categories of Pekruns et al. (2002) Academic Emotions and Filmic emotions (Smith,1999). After successfully piloting the paper prototype, I then created an online version and named it the WAE app, which was tested quantitatively with a sample of 12 vocational learners for usability and accuracy. A sample of four educational filmmakers also used the WAE app and participated in qualitative interviews to determine if it could be used in their own film production workflows. The WAE app worked as designed with adult learners. Educational filmmakers also reported they were keen to use the WAE app to evaluate and edit their productions to understand if their use of cinematic techniques activated the academic emotions believed to support learning.

These findings and my experience as an educational filmmaker working to activate academic emotions in my own film production workflows led to the creation of an updated version of the original paper and digital prototypes. Critically, both now contain the positive emotion of Awe, a complex emotion that educational filmmakers can activate by using one or more of the five elements of film, such as incredible stories, scenes of great beauty and music. The updated digital app is aptly named the AWE app, I argue that it can play an important role in assisting filmmakers in self-assessing and previewing their educational films with diverse cohorts of learners in our present network economy where augmented and virtual reality (VR) films will likely play a central role in future learning. The AWE app provides educators and educational filmmakers, teachers and students with a novel and easy-to-use tool to critically assess the capacity of their educational and edutainment productions to activate those academic emotions believed to support learning. Moreover, the AWE app is versatile and can be used to assess not only educational films and augmented and virtual reality learning content, but also the propensity of other multimedia content to activate academic emotions or the emotions believed to support learning.